Saturday, December 30, 2006

Relativism's Seven Sins Against Reason: Truth by Survey

Relativism has come up with yet another offense against logic. It is of course not new at all. On the contrary, the poisonous mixture of truth and the phenomenon of surveys has been around for a long time. As all neo-sophistry it starts innocent enough, but before long it reaches new depths as the misconception is allowed to live on.

It causes widespread mistakes, errors, misunderstandings and misconceptions about all matter. It suggests people's opinions, thought-through - or not, properly motivated - mostly not, matter in cases that are not their call at all; or that do not call for an opinion because they are questioning given facts, of nature or otherwise. It creates some kind of quasi democracy - whether appropriate or not. Surveys also suggest that if people vote it down and it happens all the same, this is done somehow Contrary to the Will of the People, causing some crypto-sense of Outrage.

This is how it could happen that, as over 51% of people surveyed returned a result of "Pope John Paul II should retire" this was in places taken quite seriously. The fact that St Peter had never taken out a pension policy and that it is therefore also not customary for his current replacement, doesn't enter the relativist mind, that is so full of its own idea that all and sundry dating before the period of the Enlightenment is obsolete, the folly of the question doesn't even occur to him. Let alone the conclusion that it's not The People's call, that the Roman Church isn't a Jeffersonian democracy avant la lettre, or that it is certainly not a matter for non-Catholics to decide.

Notwithstanding the given that public opinion is notoriously fickle and there is such a thing as the dictatorship by the majority to consider, all this has very little to do with fact and truth, and it is misleading the public.

Open a web-page and there's a survey to fill out. Let us know what you think! We value your opinion! Have your say! Before you know it, some lux in tenebris [1] will put to the question if God exists! "Fill in: yes or no". Hurray for the atheists: 50,3% of the people surveyed returned a No! It's now official: there is no God!
Crazy? Not so. It can happen tomorrow. I don't want to confuse the issues, but it's too good to pass up: consider weblog "The Atheist Ethicist" that this week posted the following trouvaille:

The Morality Test
In a recent posting, "Jewish Atheist" offered a ‘morality test [2] that attempted to collect empirical data that no two people are in complete agreement on a range of moral statements. What "Jewish Atheist" meant to imply from this set of data is not entirely clear. It is not clear, in part, because I can come up with a similar set of statements about things that are totally objective, where people are in disagreement about the facts of the matter ... et cetera, et cetera.

While the "Atheist Ethicist" correctly questions a test to establish morality, it commits the sin of confusing facts with opinion: you cannot disagree over facts; there are a given!
The Jewish variety goes on to suggest the following questions:

(1) At least one God exists.
(2) Humans are the product of a phenomena called ‘evolution’ in a universe designed by God in such a way that evolution would create humans.
(3) Jesus rose from the dead.
(4) Mohamed was a prophet of God.
(5) There is at least one planet with multi-cellular life within 1000 light years of Earth.
(6) Earth will be hit by an asteroid or comet at least 0.5 km in diameter within the next 100,000 years.
(7) There were dinosaurs on Noah’s Arc. Et cetera, et cetera.

This set of queries have nothing to do with morality. They are a selection of faith articles, plus one thrown in for good measure about Darwinism (which just goes to show that Ann Coulter wasn't that far off the mark), plus a few questions about astronomy that have no business there at all; but is doesn't matter as they're all irrelevant as far as morality is concerned.
Wait, I know a good secular question to put to the test: let's ask if anybody has problems dodging taxes? I think the rates can be abolished by tomorrow noon.
It defies belief sometimes what relativism can do to the brain!

It is of course only one of many offences against reason that are committed by the pseudo philosophers and sophists. To date I'm listing seven misconceptions on very basic matters, and counting. We'll come to each one in turn, given time. But please, the next time you see a survey, set it alight if laws of nature and personal safety allow.

I am considering organizing a contest for the Most Outrageous Survey, so by all means let me know if there is any one you come across that you'd like to submit for an award.

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